Immunisation rates in the Shire have never garnered praise from the NSW Health Department, but data from the National Health Performance Authority has revealed some stark findings.
Data collated looked at children entering school in 2015, ostensibly to assess the number of five-year-olds entering primary most at risk of coming into contact with children who were not immunised.
What was discovered is that five of the Shire’s schools make the top 20.
While the the study did not look at schools where there are fewer than 26 registered children, key primary schools in the area enrolled between 24-26 per cent unvaccinated students.
For immunisation to provide the greatest benefit, a sufficient number of people need to be vaccinated to halt the spread – a phenomenon called ‘herd immunity’.
The proportion of the population that has to be immune to interrupt disease transmission differs for each vaccine preventable disease, however the NSW Health Department aims for about 95 per cent.
The results have again prompted the North Coast Public Health Unit’s acting director, Greg Bell, to urge parents to immunise their children against preventable diseases.
“Positive health interventions, such as vaccination, in the first five years of a child’s life are vitally important in laying the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life,” Mr Bell said.
“The NSW Immunisation Program provides our communities with protection against vaccine preventable diseases through initiatives targeting infants, children, adolescents, healthcare workers and older people.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect your child and other children in the community from serious diseases such as measles, whooping cough and hepatitis B.
“Vaccines work best if they are given on time. Even if a child has a runny nose or cold they can still have their vaccines. Vaccination against pertussis is recommended for babies aged six to eight weeks, then at four months and six months of age.
“A booster is recommended at 18 months, again at four years of age and in the first year of high school. Delaying vaccination can increase the risk of your child getting sick.”
To combat the stem of unimmunised children, NSW Health has built an app called Save the Date to Vaccinate.
“The App allows parents to enter their child’s name and birth date, as well as their GP’s contact details,” Mr Bell said.
“It then calculates the next immunisation due date and sends a series of reminders to prompt the parent to call their GP to schedule an appointment.”
In addition, there is a Save the Date to Vaccinate website, which includes resources such as a printable personalised vaccination schedule and videos.
To download the Save the Date App or print a Personalised Vaccination Schedule see www.immunisation.health.nsw.gov.au
The Courier-Sun asked the NSW Education Department for comment.
In reply, a spokesperson directed inquiries to its website, which read: “There are many infectious diseases that affect children and young people including: chickenpox and shingles, gastroenteritis, mumps, influenza, measles, rubella and whooping cough (pertussis).
“Students who do not have proof of immunisation may have to stay at home during an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease at school. Particular arrangements will be worked out by the local public health unit in consultation with the school.
“Schools may notify parents of the outbreak so that families are aware of the symptoms.”
Other key findings found that in the Mullumbimby area, which has seen aggressive anti-vaccination activity, more than 50 per cent of children aren’t immunised. At the other end of the spectrum, in Budgewoi, just 2.46 per cent of pupils haven't been immunised.
- A fully immunised at five years means that a child received their fourth or fifth vaccination (dependent on the type of vaccine used) for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, their fourth vaccination for polio and their second vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella.